Washington DC museums are plentiful and offer a variety of exciting learning experiences. Whether you're interested in art, espionage, history, science, the Armed Forces, or natural history, there's a museum to satisfy your curiosity.
Museum lovers can plan an entire day, or even multiple days, exploring all the excellent options in the area. And many of these museums offer free admission!
From life-size dinosaur skeletons at the Natural History Museum to the beautiful sculptures at the National Gallery of Art, these museums give you a glimpse into human history and culture from multiple perspectives. Below, we'll explore several Washington DC museums you can tour while visiting the nation's capital.
Washington DC Museums Worth a Visit
International Spy Museum
Visiting the International Spy Museum is an exciting way to learn about espionage and the history of spies. The museum offers an interactive experience called the Undercover Mission. As you explore the museum, you'll have the opportunity to test your knowledge and spy skills. Once you reach the Debriefing Center, you'll be able to check your scores.
From code-breaking and spy agencies to secret-stealing inventions, the International Spy Museum is a fun and exciting place to visit with your family.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Dedicated in 1993, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is “a living memorial to the Holocaust.” It offers a captivating collection that helps to remember the victims of this genocide and honor survivors.
The museum's permanent exhibition spans three floors and takes you through the events of the Holocaust and its aftermath through artifacts, films, and photographs. The museum also hosts traveling exhibits that provide deeper insight into some of the events and people of the Holocaust.
One of the popular things to do when visiting Washington, DC, is explore one of the many Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo. Did you know that there are twenty-one museums under the Smithsonian Institution umbrella? Some museums are located in other cities, but the Washington DC museums are free and open to the public.
Smithsonian museums in DC include:
- National Museum of Natural History
- National Air and Space Museum
- National Portrait Gallery
- National Museum of American History
- National Museum of the American Indian
- Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
- National Postal Museum
- National Museum of African American History and Culture
- Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
- National Museum of Asian Art
- National Museum of African Art
- American Art Museum and Renwick Gallery
- National Museum of the American Latino
- Anacostia Community Museum
- Smithsonian American Women's History Museum
Museum of the Bible
The Museum of the Bible offers an immersive and technologically advanced experience through the story, history, and influence of the Bible. It is an excellent learning adventure for all ages, with three floors of permanent exhibits and several more consisting of rotating and traveling exhibits.
The museum's permanent exhibits include artifacts from the Vatican Museums and Library and an interactive children's exhibit.
During your visit, you'll walk the streets of villages, enjoy films, listen to Bible readings, and experience the narrative of the Bible in a highly engaging way.
National Geographic Museum
Visiting the National Geographic Museum is a fantastic experience that allows you to explore different aspects of our world. The museum offers a wide variety of rotating exhibits, so there is always a reason to revisit the museum. Whether you are interested in anthropology, geography, or the natural world, these immersive encounters are sure to satisfy your curiosity.
Other museum attractions include six theaters, a gift shop, and a cafe where you can have a meal or snack while admiring views of Washington, DC.
National Children's Museum
The National Children's Museum is an ideal destination for families with young children. The museum offers a rotating selection of experiences designed to inspire learning through art, music, science, and creative activities.
From exciting art galleries to science experiments and environmental projects, the National Children's Museum is a fantastic way for little ones to express their natural curiosity and creativity. This museum is perfect for a family outing with its entertaining exhibits, animated displays, and age-appropriate themes.
National Law Enforcement Museum
Visiting the National Law Enforcement Museum is a chance to honor the brave men and women in law enforcement who protect our country daily.
The museum provides a unique opportunity to explore the history of American law enforcement and celebrate courageous officers. You can climb into a police car, examine artifacts, and watch short films on crime-fighting technology and the evolution of law enforcement.
For those looking for an interesting way to gain a greater understanding of those who protect us daily, a trip to the National Law Enforcement Museum is worth taking.
National Gallery of Art
The National Gallery of Art is an awe-inspiring experience. The museum offers a stunning range of art from all over the world, from classical Greek sculptures to modern works from France and Italy.
As you wander through its galleries, you can marvel at some of history's greatest artists, such as Monet, Vincent van Gogh, and Renoir. Or perhaps you'd like to learn about more traditional works that reveal fascinating perspectives on cultures in Africa or Asia.
The National Gallery of Art features sculptures, paintings, prints, drawings, and decorative art. Regardless of what type of art interests you, a visit to the National Gallery makes for an enriching experience.
National Museum of Women in the Arts
Exploring the National Museum of Women in the Arts is an opportunity to celebrate women's social, cultural, and political contributions throughout history.
This museum offers paintings and sculptures, film screenings, and programs related to current events and complex issues affecting women today. Additionally, educational programs feature prominent contemporary women artists speaking about their works and experiences.
The National Museum of Women in the Arts seeks to inspire art lovers and recognize historic accomplishments made by women artists around the world.
The museum is currently under renovation and scheduled to re-open in fall 2023.
National Guard Memorial Museum
The National Guard Memorial Museum is a unique and inspiring experience. It houses a rich collection of items related to US military history that helps you understand the sacrifices made by our troops.
As you walk among displays, photographs, and historical documents from past conflicts, you can't help but appreciate all of the brave men and women who risked their lives for our freedom. Each exhibit highlights stories of heroism and strength, showcasing the contribution many have made in service to their country.
National Building Museum
The National Building Museum is a must for anyone looking to learn about the design and architecture of historical and contemporary buildings. From art and architecture to engineering feats, this museum exhibits the history and makeup of Washington's built environment.
When you visit the National Building Museum, you will learn the story of how urban planning has intersected with the nation's capital. With fascinating walks through different periods and interactive displays for kids and adults, this Washington DC museum will give you a new perspective on the city's architectural adventures.
National Museum of the US Navy
As one of the largest national Washington DC museums, the National Museum of the US Navy allows you to take a journey into our naval history. The museum offers incredible insight into what it means to serve our country, from art depicting battles fought through time to artifacts from past wars.
With free admission year-round and interactive exhibits for kids, it's an excellent stop for anyone looking to learn more about the bravery displayed by members of the US Navy.
National Archives Museum
Touring the National Archives Museum offers an experience like no other. This free museum contains documents, photographs, and artifacts that tell the story of American history through public records. Each exhibit offers insight into important historical moments, from the Declaration of Independence to early US Supreme Court decisions.
Not only does this museum hold an incredible wealth of knowledge, but it also provides interactive activities for you to take part in. Exploring the National Archives Museum can be an enlightening experience and allows you to gain a better understanding of how our nation has evolved.
Final Thoughts on Washington DC Museums
Washington, DC, is home to some of the best museums in the world. From the Smithsonian Institution to the International Spy Museum, the nation's capital has a museum for almost every interest. These museums provide educational experiences through engaging exhibits on many topics ranging from science and art to international cultures.
Many Washington DC museums have free admission and are within walking distance of other famous landmarks. Whether you are a museum enthusiast or just looking for things to do in Washington, DC, these museums have something to satisfy any level of curiosity.
This article was produced by Wealth of Geeks.
Alex Sumuel is the founder of Wander With Alex, where she provides vacationers and travel enthusiasts with trip ideas, travel guides, and itineraries. She travels to experience, eat, and explore-- and, on occasion, escape! She's a proud Virginia native who has also founded the Explore Coastal Virginia website. Alex’s mission is to help people travel better.